Monday, May 16, 2016

Earnings bias against rural folks, even after they move to the city

A UK study that is garnering attention on social media today suggests that those who grow up in rural places continue to be burdened or otherwise stigmatized by that upbringing, even after they have moved to a town or city.  The study's author was Dr. Martin Culliney, of Sheffield Hallam University, who tracked the income of nearly 1600 people from 1991 'til 2009.  Those studied were between 15 and 24 years of age at the beginning of the study and up to age 42 at the end. Here's an excerpt describing the "pay penalty that exists into adulthood":  
People who grow up in rural areas earn less than their urban equivalents even after they move to towns and cities for work, research says.

* * *
[Culliney] found that in 2008/9, the net take-home pay for those living in rural areas was around £900 less a year than those living in towns and cities. 
Even when people who grew up in rural areas later began working in towns and cities, the net take-home pay for full-time workers stayed less than for those who had grown up in urban areas.
* * * 
In 2008/9 the best paid were those who had started off in a town or city and then moved to a rural area – their net take-home pay was around £23,400 a year for those working full-time. 
Those who stayed in rural areas or moved from rural to urban areas had the lowest net take-home pay, around £14,400 to £18,400 a year for full-time workers. 
"Young people who remain in rural locations earn less money than their urban peers," said Dr Culliney. There were fewer jobs and a limited range of careers in rural areas, he said. 
Those who were prepared to move to towns and cities earned more than those who stayed in rural areas, but less than those brought up in urban areas, he said. 
"Simply being of rural origin brought respondents less pay across the whole 18-year observation window." 
He said that the findings could be interpreted as "conveying a rather fatalistic message" that young people suffered a "pay penalty into adulthood" even if they relocated to towns and cities. However, this was reduced if they moved to urban areas to work.
This all reminds me of the anti-rural bias in college admissions that Ross Douthat reported a few years ago in the New York Times.  Read my analysis of it here and here.

I also recall coming across a 1996 report from Mississippi State University called "The Social Cost of Growing-Up in Rural America:  Rural Development and Social Change in the Twentieth Century."  The lead author is Frank M. Howell, with Yuk-Ying Tung and Cynthia Wade-Harper.  Here are a couple of lines from the abstract:
This report examines the extent and process by which rural origins may affect socioeconomic attainments in adulthood and how these "costs" have changed during this century.  Introductory sections review research and theories of rural differentiation and stratification and the history of major federal policy initiatives of rural development. 
* * * 
[E]ducation is a conduit by which rural origins influence occupational status.  However, family income continued to show rural-associated deficits, especially for rural non-farm residents.  The model suggests that reduced expectations of family and friends influence the educational planning and eventual status attainment of rural youth.  
Also of possible relevance is this Brookings Institute study which found that college degrees are less valuable for those who were raised poor.  This suggests the habits or folkways acquired by those raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged situations -- in a sense, poor culture--holds them back when they move into more upscale milieu.

1 comment:

Orchid64 said...

The study seems to be missing some important information about education and how that factors into the equation. One of the reasons that those going from urban to rural environments make more is that they bring their education credentials with them. Those who go from rural to urban may be seeking jobs without higher education backgrounds (since growing up in rural areas often means less access to education).

So, this may be less a reflection of an earnings bias, and more a reflection of a person with a higher degree earning more when migrating to a rural area and a person with no higher degree making less when migrating to an urban area. That wouldn't be bias. That'd be a fact of how the employment landscape works.

This occurred to me in no small part because my husband and I moved from an urban area to a rural one and he earns more than the median for the area, but he also has a Master's degree and is working toward becoming a licensed therapist. People who were born and raised in this area rarely get Bachelor's degrees, let alone anything at the graduate level. When they leave, it's often to seek semi-skilled, unskilled, or specific skill-set jobs (such as construction work) that don't pay as well as professional work.